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Hello Again, NativeScript TypeScript

Hello Again, NativeScript TypeScript
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NativeScript supported TypeScript since the early days. However, it is not until recently that the CLI-centric development experience allowed a smooth transition into TypeScript development of your mobile apps. Several clunky attempts have been made to introduce TypeScript into the NativeScript CLI story, but they were headache prone. This post will show you how much easier it is now to work with TypeScript by converting the basic Hello World template project into it’s TypeScript equivalent.

I am using Visual Studio Code as my editor because it has amazing support for TypeScript. This post will focus on showing you how to get started with TypeScript with NativeScript by simply converting the Hello World template that you get when running tns create. It does not provide any guidance on good project organization. Keep watching this and the NativeScript docs for best practices on good project structure.

Versions used in this post 
  • NativeScript: 1.5.1


Related Resources

Setting Up Your NativeScript Project with TypeScript

Create our project using the Hello World template

tns create hello-tns-ts

Change your directory to the newly created project

cd hello-tns-ts

You will see a familiar project structure


Notice all the .js files in the app directory. All these will soon be .ts files. One other very important thing to notice is the recently new reference.d.ts file right there in your app folder. This is a very important TypeScript definitions file that references all of NativeScript modules.

Now all we need to do is add TypeScript to our NativeScript project. Back on the command line, run the command to add TypeScript

tns install typescript

This installs and configures TypeScript in your project. You don’t have to do anything else at this point to start writing TypeScript files and referencing NativeScript modules. But since we are converting the Hello World template to TypeScript, I will guide you through the rest of the steps.

By the way, after you’ve executed the last command and added TypeScript to your project, you might have noticed that there are some new files and folders visible at the project root.


I won’t go into details about what each new file and folder does, but the important thing to note is that now you will have intellisense in your TypeScript files which will make writing new code a breeze. TypeScript compilation is automagically configured to run as part of your regular NativeScript build workflow as well. So when you’re ready to run the app, you don’t have to perform any extra steps such as building the TypeScript files into JavaScript files, this is done for you!

JavaScript to TypeScript Reverse Conversion

You can see three JavaScript files generated by the Hello World template.


Let’s begin by ranaming app.js to app.ts.


Your app is perfectly legal still and will run. There are two reasons for this: 1. JavaScript is valid TypeScript 1. NativeScript will automatically compile your app.ts file into app.js and everything will work as before.

Don’t believe me? Let’s try running the app

tns run ios —emulator

And we have everything running as usual. You should have believed me.


Now if you take a look at the project directory structure in your editor, you will see both app.ts and app.js files.


Everything works, yes, but we’re not quite done. The best practice with TypeScript is to use the import statement when requiring other modules. So we’re going to change var to import in this file. Now we’re done.


app.ts references main-page as the main module to load in the application. Let’s go ahead and convert main-page.js. Start by renaming it to main-page.ts.


Open main-page.ts and start by changing the var on the first line to import. You will notice that this wasn’t as clean as last time because we still have a red squiggly line under the require statement and maybe even an error that says “cannot find module ‘./main-view-model’”.


This will be resolved once we convert the main-view-model.js file into TypeScript.

Next, your module will export the pageLoaded function, but using TypeScript’s export notation. We can export the function directly


Finally, we will convert main-view-model.js to TypeScript. Rename the file to main-view-model.ts and open it up.


What you see is JavaScript that was compiled from a TypeScript class. We will just reverse that process and convert it back. Don’t let the crazy __extends syntax scare you, this is just a simple class that inherits from NativeScript’s Observable class in the observable module. Since I know I want the Observable class, I will use the dereferencing syntax to grab the Observable class from the observable module that is provided by NativeScript. Thus the first line becomes


Now we change the messy JavaScript class to TypeScript and marvel in its beauty and simplicity.


Notice that we are exporting the class as well as the free variable mainViewModel that is expected by the main-page module and holds a reference to a new HelloWorldModel object.

Note: We could have used the “import” and “require” combination also
import observableModule = require(“data/observable”);
Then we would just need to reference the “Observable” class by specifying the module name as well
export class HelloWorldModel extends observableModule.Observable { … }

At this point, we’ve converted all three files to TypeScript. Go ahead and run the app in a simulator or emulator and it should behave the same way. After you’ve built the app, notice that we now have a .js file for every .ts file. This could get confusing and messy on a larger app so keep in mind that this is not the best way to organize your project. A better way would be to separate your modules into folders. Keep an eye out for a blog post on project organization.


Hopefully now you can feel at ease when trying to use TypeScript in your NativeScript apps and avoid all the headaches that I went through. There are still a few kinks for the team to work out to make things even simpler in the future, but this is definitely much friendlier than it used to be.

Alexander Ziskind
Alexander Ziskind

From the latest tech in web development to the latest electronic music hardware and software, Alex loves to get his hands on new stuff and hack on it. Follow this feed on Nuvious related news; so web and cloud stuff here.

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